Tracking my Google usage

I received in email today an invitation to be in a research study tracking web searches. The teaser for the study says:

“In this study, we’re interested in learning more about how people use search engines to find information on the Web. … The duration of the study is 3 weeks. To participate you will need to … be willing to install a small piece of software on your home computer that will log your web browsing & searches [and] answer a few simple questions related to your searches on a daily basis (for a 3 week period).”

The research group is offering $200 for participation, which seems like a rather paltry total for the privacy invasion it invites. But the question is a good one for the masses: how do we use search engines to find information on the Web? So obvious yet so undefined.

I decided to peek at my own Google queries on my work computer to analyze themes and trends. I consider myself a pretty solid, if shallow web searcher: I can almost always find what I’m looking for, though I tend to rephrase searches to find better results than dig past the first 20 or 30 results.

Some of my own trends, exposed:

  • I use quotes. A lot. Many of my searches force Boolean-style operations on Google, allowing me to pinpoint terms as written. I find a lot of proper nouns this way, such as “dan gingold” “mach five”, which helped me track down my former coworker’s band. (I have Pandora to thank for that one. And Dan is now my Facebook friend. Natch.)
  • I do a lot of iterative searching, as noted above: “fountains of wayne” then “fountains of wayne store” then “fountains of wayne closed” and “fountains of wayne timely demise.”
  • Maybe I shouldn’t admit this, but I have a whole bunch of mp3 searches in my results, for when I want to hear that one song one time at work.
  • I use Google Maps a lot, and I apparently fine-tune my mappings a lot–I’ll do a town-to-town search, then I’ll put in the specific destination, and then tweak my settings somehow. (So restless.)
  • I also use Google for a lot of searches that could take place on the site itself, because it’s easier just to do the google. I have dozens of people’s names with linkedin in the search, and many references to aiaio or Timely Demise from cross-referencing my own archives.

I’m sure there’s more insight to be had, but that’s quite an interesting start. How do you do the google?

This is a cross-post from aiaio.